Crossroads ports less congested than larger ones

A Panamax cargo vessel sits in the ship/barge dock at the Calhoun Port Authority in Point Comfort.

Calhoun County Port Authority board members ignored or refused to answer why they give themselves retirement benefit that no other Gulf Coast port board provides.

The Victoria Advocate reported on Sunday that the board, which is elected and meets once a month, chose to give themselves retirement that the port has contributed about $89,000 to over the past decade.

The retirement is on top of the about $630,000 the port has paid the board to attend meetings during that time period and the about $297,000 the port has reimbursed board members for travel- related expenses.

“I’m not going to comment on anything, ma’am,” said Randy Boyd, who serves as chairman. “We’re in a lawsuit with the Victoria Advocate.”

The lawsuit Boyd was referring to is about the Texas Open Meetings Act, not the board’s retirement.

Board member H.C. “Tony” Wehmeyer Jr. referred questions to Port Director Charles Hausmann. Then, Wehmeyer said, “I’m just not going to comment, period.”

Board members J.C. Melcher Jr. and Dell Weathersby ignored questions.

Newly appointed board member Johnny Perez Jr., meanwhile, asked whether he needed to fill out a timesheet so the port would pay him for attending the meeting.

Wednesday, the board met in part to discuss raising the amount the port charges its customers to have port employees come in at night and on weekends, mostly to connect customers’ vessels to potable water. The current rate is $35 per hour and staff recommended raising it to $50 an hour with a two-hour minimum. Boyd said he thought that was too low.

“I think we’re light on that to be honest because costs and everything have gone up so much it’s unbelievable. I would more recommend what would be a $60 an hour regular rate with a time and a half on top of that for a $90 overtime rate,” Boyd said.

The board asked staff members to do more research on the issue before placing it on a future agenda for a vote.

After the meeting adjourned, which Shields A. “Tony” Holladay Sr. was absent from, the board signed checks and talked about the benefit of attending a recent American Association of Port Authorities conference in Chile.

Boyd, who owns RLB Contracting Inc., said a lot of big and international dredging companies had booths at the conference and the conference made him realize the value of the Calhoun Port Authority.

“It was very much worth it to go and learn what the international market is and what goes on and realize how valuable this property is. A deep water property has value,” he said.

Joe Larsen, a Houston attorney who serves on the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas’ board of directors, said the fact the board met for an additional 30 minutes after adjourning does not appear to be a violation of the Texas Open Meetings Act.

He said it was not a violation because it appears that any county business the board discussed then was incidental.

“The statute has criminal intent,” Larsen said. “They have to knowingly meet in less than a quorum to conspire to have secret meetings.”

In September, 112 vessels and 382,782.2 tons of commodities came through the port.

Hausmann said more than a million tons of commodities have come through the port during the first quarter of its fiscal year.

“And in my 18 years, that’s the highest total first quarter we’ve ever had,” he said.

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Jessica Priest reports on the environment and Calhoun County for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at jpriest@vicad.com or 361-580-6521.

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Former Environment/Investigations Reporter

Jessica Priest worked for the Victoria Advocate from August 2012-September 2019, first as the courts reporter and then as the environment/investigations reporter. Read her work now at www.jessicapriest.me.

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